Red & Black Cafe has reopened this year with substantial changes. There have been several food additions, including the ability to personalize your meal.
According to Edward Thorndike ’89, part of the Red & Black Cafe Management, the idea to revise the menu stemmed from the change in the WesWings menu last year.
“We hadn’t really changed the [Red & Black Cafe] menu significantly since we had opened the cafe 12 years ago,” Thorndike said. “One of the things we felt when we re-did the menu at WesWings a year ago was that there were positive changes and we thought we would try to mix things up a bit at the cafe and streamline things.”
He further explained that the management at WesWings had decided to bring new bread to the cafe after trying it at the Hartford Baking Company.
“We thought this would also be a good time to start and change some of the menu items,” Thorndike said.
While the main menu still offers the same beverages, the Tomato Panino, the Italian Panino, and the Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich, students can now browse a larger, more diverse selection of food.
In the new build-your-own sandwich option, those who order can go down a list of choices printed on the menu. The first step is to select a bread among six choices, including white, wheat, 7 grain, focaccia, ciabatta, and gluten free. Next, a protein can be added; choices include turkey breast, house cooked roast beef, baked ham, hummus, and cranberry-apple tuna salad. Finally, one must select a cheese and a spread.
The menu expansions also include building your own grilled cheese (pick your bread, cheese, fillings, and add meat), and building your own salad (protein of choice, toppings, and a dressing.)
Rob DeRosa, also part of the Red & Black Cafe Management, expressed his excitement for the new choices.
“My background is from a deli so I am used to making sandwiches to order,” DeRosa said. “We only had sandwiches that were pre-determined before. People like to change it up, so we got the idea that we could give more choice.”
Thorndike echoed this statement, adding that the menu presentation and organization can influence how customers approach the ordering process.
“A lot of customers would come here all [the] time and always order something but had a couple of changes they would make to it anyway, so it seemed like people were already customizing their sandwiches, so why not open it up to everyone?” he said. “[Customizing a salad] is something we noticed did really well at WesWings. Even though it was always something you can do, just by simplifying the way the menu was set up and the ordering process, it really worked out well.”
Miranda Haymon ’16, a student worker at WesWings, enthused about the changes as well.
“It’s really good that you can build your own sandwich or salad just because I always feel like I get the specialty sandwiches and add or change something,” Haymon said. “So it’s nice to be able to be able to build it myself.”
DeRosa further explained the rationale for why the cafe kept certain sandwiches on the menu.
“The tomato and Italian panino[s] have been on the menu in this bookstore since before it was Red & Black,” DeRosa said. “They have been favorites all along. We picked some things so that people who were coming back from reunions could come back and have their memory sandwich.”
In addition, the popular specials will still be offered on a daily basis.
“We will still continue to do the same specials we have done in the past, such as chicken cutlet and meatball type specials,” Thorndike said. “Most of the specials we do down there tend to be hot specials, and right now it’s just so hot so there’s not a lot of demand for those…. Right now they’re doing a few specials a day, similar to ones we have done in the past.”
DeRosa added that the cafe plans to expand the baked goods selection and introduce new omelets on the weekends as well. However, Thorndike explained that there are a lot of considerations that go into these changes.
“It’s hard when you do a menu change that is permanent,” Thorndike said. “There are a lot of considerations, such as how you’re going to do your food prep, so you don’t want to have too many things because then its just not very efficient. You try and do things that you can simplify and streamline the menu.”